Jan 11, 2009

New Year

I know it's a bit late, but a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

This past month has simply flown by. A lot has happened. Actually, a lot of firsts have happened to me. I'll summarize each quickly, since there's a lot for me to talk about this month.

Em's firsts:
-I celebrated Tabaski, a Muslim celebration. I went to mosque in the morning and sat with the women while they prayed. The afternoon was all about feasting! Countless sheep were slaughtered. I went from house to house, and each time I was handed a huge pile of delicious food. It reminded be very much of Thanksgiving. All about giving thanks, celebrating with friends and family and of course, stuffing yourself till you feel like you'll explode.
-I went to a baptism in Pobe. It was such a fun event, honoring and congratulating the new mother with kind words and gifts. The newborn, which I got to hold, was adorable. With baptisms there are no invitations; eveyone and anyone is invited. So I got to meet a lot of new people, including women who speak French! So it was definitely a fun integrating experience.
-I started Moore lessons! My Moore teacher, a very nice and intelligent woman in village named Safiata, speaks French very well. In Pobe she started a literacy center for women in addition to a woman's group that helps women to start up "elevage" or herding and small businesses.

-I attended the little Protestant church in Pobe. Im not a very religious person but I was curious and ended up really enjoying it. Nearly the entire service was all songs. They dont have much, their hands, their voices and one old drum but it sounded beautiful. One woman was determined to translate every line, every word said in Moore to me, which honestly was a bit frustrating and made it less enjoyable (The song is about loving Jesus...I get it I get it!)

-For the first time in my life, I fainted...in class...while lecturing to my 120 students. I think it was just the heat or dehydration, nothing serious. But you'd think the kids would come to my aid right? Not exactly. When I came to, the students were screaming, the class nearly empty, the kids pushing, shoving, TRAMPLING each other trying to get out of the room with the scary possessed foreigner. Thanks for the help guys.

-I received a visit from the U.S. ambassador! She was on vacation, traveling up north with her husband and stopped to visit me in Pobe. The visit was short but very nice. It was great to chat with her plus she generously left a present of homeade banana bread and brownies. Her contract is soon over and she will be headed to...Iraq! After being in Burkina that's gotta be tough. I wish her well.

-Lastly, I killed my first chicken! I bought the chicken, sliced its throat, prepared it, cooked it, and ate it...the whole nine yards. It was easier than I thought, but definitely not something I particularly enjoyed. There will be no "Lord of the Flies" reaction to follow.
Mali trip:

Over the holidays I went to Dog0n Country in Mali. AMAZING! By far one of the best trips I ever took. The area includes this huge canyon-like cliff that has these ancient 7th century cave-like dwellings dug into the cliffs, way up high. The locals beleive those that lived there could fly, since the dwellings are so high and impossible to get to. But aparently in the 7th century there used to be strong vines up and down the cliff wall where they made their homes to hide from enemies and wild animals.
We basically did a 5 day hiking trip through the villages in the cliff. Parts of the hike, like the uphill climbs, were tough but overall it was truly relaxing. It definitely wasnt the 'sleep outside in a tent eating canned beans' experience I thought it would be.We'd hike in the morning, stop and rest in a village to eat a huge lunch, hike to another village where we'd eat more food, drink, and sleep. Our guide Omar, a native of Dogan, was great and made the whole experience that much better.

New Years

My friend and fellow volunteer Leah came to visit. She lives in Oradara, a large town in the south of Burkina with green trees, lots of fruits and vegetables, running water, electricity and internet. So she was pretty shocked to see what life was like in Pobe, but she also enjoyed it, especially the peacefullness of it all. New Years eve though was surprisingly loud and busy in Pobe, it seemed like the whole village came out to celebrate. Sita, who I think had a few too many beers, and his friends began lighting small firecrackers. There was one larger firework which Sita lit and through up in the air...where it landed on a neighbor's roof. Of course the roof, made of sticks and hay, caught fire and within seconds became a huge inferno. Villagers came to help but with their small pails of water, all we could do was sit back and watch it burn. Great way to start the new year right?

A lot of change has already come with the New Year. My resolution was to get started, get BUSY. After talking with students and finding out their interests, I have already started 4 different clubs (3 girls clubs and 1 coed).

Sports Club: includes football but also any outdoor games or physical activity like frisbee, possibly volleyball, etc.

Art Club: girls use materials like markers, crayons, stickers, pics from old magazines to create art. But their art projects will go toward helping the school/comunity, like decorating the very bare classoom walls. I also plan on doing the World Map Project (painting a mural of the world on a wall) in the near future with them.

Theater/Radio club: Girls do theater activities and will perform in front of the school, their families and community. But the performances will be on GEE themes, like promoting girls education, ending forced marriage and female circumsicion, etc. Also I spoke with the new radio station in Djibo about doing a program with the theater club. They would record a sketch they created about a GEE theme and it would be part of our radio show, playing American songs in between to attract as many listeners as possible.

Initially these were my only clubs but I actually had male students come up to me and ask, not to have a sports or art clubs but an EDUCATION club! A club where they could practice English, have study halls, debates, cultural exchanges. How could I say no to that!? Again, the clubs are just getting started but already its been a wonderful experience.

Any materials but also IDEAS on possible activities/projects to do with my clubs are very much appreciated!